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Pamplona: Never again

I posted about a week ago another thread titled "Pamplona" as we were going there for the first time and I wanted recommendations from all you great CHowhounders. It was very interesting to see the varied opinions. Well, we went last night. We had a 6pm reservation for 4 and got there about 15 minutes ahead of time. We were seated right away and given menus. We dine with these friends often and we enjoy eating much and drinking a couple of bottles of wine. We always start our meal sharing an assortment of appetizers. So, we were looking at the menu trying to decide which tapas/appetizers we were going to start with. The waiter kept trying to rush us. Every question we asked was bearly answered, and done bruquesly. We ordered a bottle of wine and still were talking about which tapas we were going to start with. When the wine came we told him we were ordering tapas to start and wanted to hold onto the menu to see what appetizers/entrees we wanted to order next. The waiter yelled at us saying that we HAD to order an entree and couldn't eat tapas only. We were all shocked. He repeated that a few times even after we said, YES, we are ordering more. He also made us give back 3 of the 4 menus. About 5 minutes later he came back to take our order for more. We hadn't decided yet as we were chatting, drinking and enjoying ourselves and looking at the wine list for our next bottle. He started pressuring us again to order. Well, food came, we ordered more and felt throughout the entire night we were getting rushed, rushed, rushed. Not once did the waiter come over and ask how everything was. All he did was to push us to turn the table. Never again will we return. ON our way out my friend spoke to the manager and relayed our experience. She asked him if it was the restaurant's policy that patrons can not only order tapas - he said NO, that wasn't true. She told him how unhappy we were with the service. While he apologized, he didn' offer to buy us a drink or do anything to make up for our poor experience. So, the 4 of us decided that there are just too many good places to go for tapas, and none of us would return again.

Regarding what we ordered, some were really good dishes, some not impressive. Here's what we had...Pincho De Chorizo Y Gambas fresh chorizo and shrimp skewer over goat cheese toast, 2 of them on the cheese toast. I couldn't distinguish the shrimp in taste at all...Pincho De Dateles dates - palacio, bacon, 3 tiny ones and I could have eaten a dozen more all myself...Bocadillo De Jamon jamon serrano, iberico cheese...Buñuelos De Queso iberico, manchego cheese and cider fritter...crab lasagne appetizer that was so tiny we couldn't share...Cochinillo confit suckling pig which was very good...paella with seafood that was invisible and all we saw was greasy rice and we felt is was a small portion for the price tag of $35...and I forgot the 3rd entree.

I'd skip this place and go to Alta any time.

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  1. I think that Urena surrounds himself with the bad persons. He prepares great food but hires the wrong people. I went to Urena last summer and had a similar experience. I thought the food was great but the maitre d' was unbearable. He charged me for a glass of wine offered by the wine salesman! Urena should hire a person that would more closely at those details. He could bury all his restaurants if he continues to get bad reviews based on the service. People tend not to return to certain places because of bad service, even if the food is great.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cricri7

      Actually, based on the lunch I just had, I don't think the food is that great. I might return for the hamburger if I were in the neighborhood, and the churros were good, but the pincho de chorizos y gambas, albondigas and fried chickpea things were pretty forgettable in my book - especially the albondigas.

      Also, the prices were quite a bit higher than posted on their website and/or on menupages - in the case of some of the tapas, 50% or more higher.

    2. Add me to the list of people who think the food would have to be at least twice as good to justify the terrible service. I think Urena needs to go to work for someone else; he seems to have little clue how to run the front of the house.

      1. I'm with you. I went once last year and had some of the most mediocre food and inattentive service I've had in the city.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Lucia

          The waiter actually said to us, "You need to order your entree now. It's a Saturday night and we don't just serve tapas!"

          1. re: synergy

            Maybe Urena recycled his obnoxious maitre d' as a waiter:)

        2. We decided to go for lunch yesterday after I had read some reviews of it on this board, understanding that the reviews were mixed, but that some liked certain tapas, and the hamburger. Made an opentable reservation, then called to make sure that the menupages "brunch" menu was correct in showing that they had a lot of non-brunchish offerings. The woman with whom I spoke said "I wouldn't know.", which, as my husband said, was at least honest, if not rather brusque. But, she confirmed that tapas and the hamburger were available, so down we went.

          We were the only table there the entire time. Friendly greeting and they helped us with our coats, my husband's cane, etc. I noticed that some of the tables, including ours, were a bit chipped, and that there were places on the wall across from us that where the paint had been scraped off. We got our somewhat used paper menus and wine list, and ordered a beer and a manzanilla. The beer barely had a chill to it and the manzanilla was warm. My husband asked if they had any colder beers, but they didn't, though the bar tender offered to put a second one on ice for him (not needed since we intended to order a bottle of wine). Our waiter seemed a bit clueless and unfamiliar with the menu - unable to answer our questions about various items. We ended up ordering the bacalao croquettas, the albondigas (meatballs) and the pinco of chorizo and shrimp. The hostess came to our table to say that they were out of croquettas, so we ended up ordering the chickpea fries (fried squares of mashed chickpea). The meatballs had absolutely no flavor and were a bit hard for my liking, the chickpea dish was ok, and the chorizo in the pincho was good, but none of these are dishes I'd go back for. We also ordered the hamburger, which we both liked, though it was pretty darn rare in the middle for medium rare, but we didn't feel like sending it back. Fries were better than they looked (a bit pale) and came with some kind of mayonnaise based sauce, which we liked. For dessert, we had the churros - excellent - highlight of the meal. If I were in the neighborhood at lunch time, I might be inclined to stop in for the hamburger and churros.

          I mentioned in another post about the prices being different from those on their site - not a big deal, but the pincho was $7, not $5, the meatballs $6 not $5, and the hamburger $20, not $18 (also all different from the menupages pricing) - not a big deal though.

          Aside from our waiter being unfamiliar with the menu (he seemed to be new, based on conversations we overheard with the bartender), the service was good - but since the restaurant was empty ....

          We also had espresso ($10) - decent, a bottle of wine ($54 - v. good), and the tab before tip was about $135, though the food was only $56. I found the room depressing - not just because of the observations above, but there is something very peculiar about the lighting - maybe they need more wall sconces, and to get rid of the overhead lighting. But, since I probably won't be back, it doesn't matter!

          3 Replies
          1. re: MMRuth

            I was just reading some older reviews of this place and it reminded me of something I forgot to mention, that millefeuille pointed out - it seemed like every dish was "anointed with a tasteless aioli and an aggressive squirting of basil oil".

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/445684

            1. re: MMRuth

              MMRuth, I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I've been searching for good tapas/Spanish cuisine and love your posts on Casa Mono, so thanks for saving me a bit of cash on Pamplona! Guess I can cross this one off the list.

              1. re: theannerska

                We wanted to like it - had actually been referred to Urena ages ago by a waiter at La Grenouille (I think the hostess at Pamplona is the daughter of the Maitre d' there) - and this was the first time that we managed to go. I would surely go to Casa Mono instead!

                I know Casa Mono is not cheap - but every time we go, we say "Why don't we come here more often?"!

            2. unfortunate you had such a bad time. When i went there we order about 6 tapas dishes and never heard a complaint from the waiter. Dinner was fabulous and I'd recommend it to friends and family. I would stay away from the main courses as I hear they are nothing special.

              It's possible you're waiter wanted a bigger tip, had an ego trip or was just plain rude. But that unfortunately now has ruined your experience and opinion of the restaurant.